Not many people can say they have lived a century, but on Oct. 3, Ed Weiss will join the ranks of those who can add that landmark birthday to their list of achievements. And Weiss has certainly not spent his 100 years in solitude. He and his wife Claire have been married 72 years and together for 79, and they have two children and three grandchildren.
They say that cheese grows sharper with age, and it is clear that Weiss's quick wit, sparkle and sense of humor have sharpened with time in much the same way. Within seconds of discussing his birthday plans, Weiss was spinning an extravagant tale about a celebration that culminated in a hot-air balloon ride over Seattle. He then laughed and said that there wouldn't be any of that highflying fun to mark the occasion, and that he is just focused on staying alive to reach the day. Witty and intelligent, alive is certainly what Weiss is.
As he looked back on his life, Weiss's recollections were punctuated with laughter and stories, sometimes prompted by his daughter Nancy who he turned to when he needed a little memory refresher.
"One-hundred?" Weiss said with a smile. "Are you sure I'm not turning 200?"
Currently a resident of Queen Anne, Weiss was born in Philadelphia but grew up and lived most of his life in a small town in New Jersey called Williamstown. He studied at Temple University and then went on to medical school to become a doctor. Weiss said he knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a doctor because he wanted to help people.
During his first year of medical school, Weiss went to Atlantic City with a cousin. While at a beach there, he was introduced to Claire. At the mere mention of the story of how they met, Weiss's face lit up with a brilliant smile and his eyes sparkled as he reminisced about meeting his wife.
Nancy remembers her father always telling the story of meeting Claire. The first words she said to him were to ask him for a light for her cigarette. As a medical student, Weiss was very much against smoking, but his disapproval of smoking clearly didn't deter him from asking her on a date.
"I asked her on a date and I didn't stop asking her until she married me," Weiss said. The couple dated for seven years before tying the knot. Most of their courtship happened during the years of the Great Depression, and they decided they didn't want to get married until they had a steady income.
After marriage, they waited 10 years before having children. Their early marriage coincided with the time in which Hitler was in power in Germany, and as a Jewish couple, they decided they didn't want to bring children into the world until it was safe.
An excellent student, Weiss modestly says, "Oh, I did alright in school." But Nancy said he still remembers exact questions he got wrong on tests.
"I knew the answer, too," Weiss said. "I should have gotten it right."
Even though Weiss liked to play tennis and chess, he said that he felt like "my hobby was being a doctor." As a doctor, Weiss made house calls everyday, something he laments that doctors "just don't do anymore." Nancy remembers fondly the times that her father took her on house calls with him. A lifelong learner, Weiss spent much of what little time he had off taking courses and reading medical journals.
During his youth, Weiss also excelled in athletics. He enjoyed tennis, running and playing football. Despite his small stature, Weiss said he never felt afraid of getting crunched by the bigger players. However, he did face some racism on the field because of his religion. He said that the quarterback stopped throwing passes to him, despite the fact that he was better at receiving them than the other players on the team.
Weiss and his family spent every summer at Beaver Lake in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where Weiss and his wife eventually retired for a while before moving to Florida.
"He relaxed there, which was rare," Nancy said.
When he had time off on Sundays, Weiss would cook. The property on the lake featured an old fashioned barbeque with iron slabs as the grill, which was heated by a wood fire. Nancy remembers an occasion where her father was grilling dinner at the lake. New Jersey summers were known to be hot and humid.
"When I walked out with a tray of meat for him to grill, he was striped down to his underwear, standing over the grill and sweating buckets because of the heat."
Raised in a home that emphasized social justice and equality, Weiss wanted to make sure his medical practice could reach all people, not only those with money. He made house calls to people of other races, something that many other doctors frowned upon.
"That is just how I was raised," Weiss said.
"He was raised to be very generous, so in turn, he was very generous," Nancy said.
Weiss still likes to follow the news, watch tennis, play pool and occasionally pick up the trumpet. He enjoys sitting on the porch or near the window and watching the clouds and planes that fly by. He said that the more time he spends in Seattle, the more beautiful he thinks the city is.
Nancy is throwing a celebration for her father on the day he turns 100, and the party will feature live music and stories. With his 100 years of life wisdom and experience, Weiss recommends not taking anything for granted and taking advantage of every opportunity.
"Don't worry too much," he said. "Don't let things get you down."